🧭 My Piano Journey: A Side Quest

Part 1 - Side Quest (You Are Here) - Part 2
An untitled piano piece from my childhood


When it comes to movies and video games, I'm most interested in who wrote the music. Not the actors, not the directors, not the writers. It's a career that I've been drawn to for over 20 years. While it hasn't become a career, composition has been a wonderful hobby and creative outlet. 

How I Started Composing

Around 1997, my very first composition was called "Butterflies" for my flute when I was 9.

A transcription of my first composition.

In 2001, at 13, my brother asked if I could try to learn the opening to Linkin Park's "In The End." It was a very popular song at the time and I did my best to pick out the introduction notes in D minor. 

I think it was that day that I decided to try playing my own piece in D minor. My left hand played open 5ths down the minor scale: Dm, C, Bb, Am. I improvised a repetitive melody over the top. And I mean repetitive. I made a middle section of repeated fifths, then I finished by playing part one again, this time an octave higher. 

My first composition for piano. As you can see, it's extremely repetitive!

I typically wrote in D minor or D dorian because it reminded me of fantasy stories about princesses and kingdoms. In middle school, I spent a lot of time in class drawing my story and character ideas on the back of school handouts. It's a time of my life that I remember with fondness; a reminder that I love being creative. I even started world-building and designing original characters. I was going to write, draw, and animate an original story! And, of course, I would score it too. 

Ambitious? Yes. 

Impossible? No. 

Has it happened? Not yet. Never say never!

My Planned Fiction Story Soundtrack

I created similar themes using this same chord progression. The tunes were short and I didn't know how to develop new motives and sequences. I have no idea which piece came first; The Legend of Kanali handwritten above or the Kanali transcription I was sure was my first composition. 

When September 11th happened, I wrote "Song of Peace". 

I wrote a piece for my mom. 

I wrote a piece on the black keys that sounded like it was from China. My friend in high school played the guzheng, a Chinese harp. She was able to learn my piece by ear after I played it for her on the piano. 

If I recall correctly, the transcription below has so many cross-outs because I didn't leave enough room for the accompaniment.

Around this time, my dad bought me a music writing software called Music Write. He said he would pay for any music I wanted to copyright with the Library of Congress until I turned 18. 

I didn't take him up on it because I thought my music wasn't good enough to warrant an official copyright. 

I didn't major in composition because I thought what I had created wasn't good enough for a portfolio. 

Dear traveler, never pass up opportunities when you hear "not good enough" in your mind. How do you know unless you try? Failure is an option and it's a good one, contrary to popular belief. It helps us grow and learn. 

I was embarrassed by the compositions that I created and didn't feel like sharing them because I thought they would be ridiculed. Honestly, my cultured piano teacher, Mrs. Turner, was less than thrilled with my musical taste and time spent composing! I had the support of my family, but I tended to discount that because of course they would say it was good, they were my family. 

In college, I remember receiving my homework and my professor, Dr. Edwin T. Childs, had mentioned that he liked my bass line. He was the composition professor and I wish I had asked him if he thought I could change to composition when I developed repetitive motion injuries from being a piano major.  He was very kind and encouraging. I’ll always remember that.

About a year and a half ago, I ventured into the world of orchestration. Remember the repetitive music I wrote when I was a kid? The final movement of my 8 and a half minute piece is a mashup of those themes. I hope to write a post about it in early 2024.


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